This team is not going to get (or give themselves) a single break this calendar year.
We knew the Falcons weren’t going to have an easy schedule in 2022, per se, but the hope was that it might be favorable enough for this team to improve on their seven wins in 2021. With Matt Ryan gone, Calvin Ridley suspended for the entire year, and another budget offseason well underway, those hopes have dimmed a bit.
We won’t know enough about their opponents until they actually hit the field—and until we have the full schedule in hand—but on paper here in early April, it looks like Atlanta’s set to face a difficult slate in 2022. According to this model, it’s tied for the 10th-toughest heading into the year.
I used the Vegas win totals by @DKSportsbook as well as an estimated 9.5 win total for the Browns to compute the 2022 strength of schedule for each team based on the projected wins of their opponents as of today. pic.twitter.com/k3N9JRGjFv
— Sebastian (@mrcaseb) April 4, 2022
The caveats are plentiful, of course. This is based on Vegas win totals that may bear no resemblance to reality, and do not factor in the structure of the schedule, i.e. whether the Falcons get 8 or 9 actual home games this year. Every season a couple of teams drastically underperform their projections and a couple of teams drastically overperform theirs, and the net effect on the Falcons’ win total remains to be seen. What you should be getting from this is simply that this schedule is shaping up to be difficult.
This makes the 2022 season extremely interesting. The Falcons have been asking us to trust that they’re on the right path here, a level of trust not all fans are ready to give. They’ll be heading into the season with some combination of Marcus Mariota, a rookie and Feleipe Franks at quarterback, an offense that’s a massive work in progress, and a defense that has major question marks up front, not to mention a coaching staff that showed some promise but clearly needs time and work to improve. If this team can face off against a challenging schedule with a so-so roster and get somewhere near their 2021 win total, it will be an extremely encouraging sign. If they wallow in the basement of the NFL, well, at least they’ll have a top draft pick and a ton of cap space to sell us all on the brighter days just around the corner.
The Falcons were always going to have to get by in 2022 with savvy coaching, savvy drafting, and savvy signings, plus their small core of stars. The road ahead looks awfully difficult this coming season, but we’ll hope the draft goes well and this team surprises enough to at least be competitive all year long while we wait for that big cap windfall in 2023.